Starring: Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna, Mía Maestro
Director: Walter Salles
Running Time: 126 mins
The Motorcycle Diaries is an Argentinian film about the epic motorcycle journey undertaken by a young Alberto Granado and his friend Ernesto Guevara, and it tells the story of the years that radicalised and transformed young Ernesto into becoming the face of the Cuban Revolution years later: ‘Che’ Guevara.
The most impressive thing about this film is how, for the majority of the running time, it feels a lot more like a fictional adventure than a historical and political biopic. In comparison to the lengthy biopic Che, which was excessively fact-heavy, this blends the history with a very personal and emotional story, and tells the story of a character who, for the most part, is very easy to relate to and get interested in.
The way that this film starts is the strongest part in my opinion, because it feels just like these two young men are setting on a grand adventure, and in comparison to the heavier tones that come about towards the end of the film, the atmosphere at the beginning is much lighter and optimistic, which was absolutely delightful to watch.
One of the other best things about the first half or so of the film is that you get this sense of adventure by the beautiful scenery. The men travel through some of the most idyllic landscapes I’ve seen on film, and that visual beauty also contributes to creating that optimistic sense of the first part of the film that makes it so pleasant and emotional.
Also, the relationship that continues to blossom between the two men is fascinating to watch. Friends from a young age, this story details how this journey both made them closer and drew them apart at times, but because you get such a clear sense of the closeness of their relationship, those times when they’re furthest apart from each other are really impacting.
The second period of the film, when Guevara begins to recognise the injustices of Latin America towards the poor or the unprivileged is a lot heavier, however, but it still tells a very coherent and convincing story of the way that Che was born, and the transformation from just an adventurer to a revolutionary is done so swiftly in this film, making it absolutely clear to everyone the real importance of this story.
The only problem that I would have with this film is that it loses its optimistic atmosphere once it becomes political. Of course, that’s the point, and it’s meant to show how hurt Guevara was by seeing these injustices across the continent, however it becomes a little too heavy at points, and wasn’t ever as appealing as the first period of the film, which I was deeply engrossed in.
Overall, this gets a 7.5, due to its successes in telling the history of Che Guevara’s transformative years in a coherent manner, as well as the delightful and beautiful adventure half of the film that will really engross you.